If we can't attract visitors to our websites there's little point in having them in the first place. But with millions of sites already available and thousands of new sites being launched daily, ask yourself why would anybody want to visit your site?
To find the answer to that question, turn it around and ask yourself why you choose to visit the sites you visit. Of those same millions of sites, only a tiny percentage will ever be graced by your clicks. Why? What made you land on those and not others?
Here are my 10 reasons for visiting websites.
1. I did a Google search.
Google is without doubt the world's most popular search engine. Make sure your site's listed and learn as much as you can about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so that your site stands a good chance of getting to the top of the search results list.
After all, if somebody searches for “Green Bananas Rock Group" and that's what your site's about, you don't want to be listed on page 17 do you? Absolutely nobody is going to browse that far to find what they're after.
2. I followed a link from another site.
Contact webmasters of sites that are somehow relevant to yours without being actual competitors and ask to swap reciprocal links.
For the sake of that all important Google placement it would be nice to get one-way links coming into your site without needing to reciprocate but you can hardly ask for those and any link is better than no link at all.
3. I was looking for information
Everybody's heard that “content is king" and as cliché-ed as it's become, it's still very true.
Let's say you have a site that sells underwear. Add some articles about the history of different types of underwear, how they're made, any anecdotes involving undies and anything else you can think of. No matter what your subject is there's always something that can be written about it.
If you can't write yourself you can always find a freelancer and have them either write a few articles for you. Remember, sloppy writing will give a negative impression of your service so make sure anything you write is correctly spelled and punctuated.
4. To meet friends
Discussion forums are great places for people to ‘hang out’ in and extremely popular.
If the “Green Banana Rockers" have a decent sized following, why not create a forum where their fans can discuss their career, ask questions and just have fun?
Whether you want to host your own forum or use one of the free remotely hosted forums is up to you. Either way there's some great software available.
5. Because I wanted to buy something
If you're selling something, make sure it's easy to find and order. Too many sites make the ordering process more complicated than it ought to be and lose customers simply because they don't want to have to keep clicking.
One click to the product list, one click to the product, one click to put product in basket and one to check out. Possibly one more to go to the secure payment if your payment system is offsite but that's it.
Some webmasters expect visitors go click 4-5 times just to check out AFTER adding their products to the basket. That's just too much to expect. There's always a competitor ready to grab your customers away from you so design YOUR site to be the one that's most attractive to use.
6. A friend recommended the site
Make sure you have a way of letting visitors recommend your site to others.
There are lots of free scripts available that will do the job and most are very simple to set up.
7. I received an e-card
Having attractive e-cards on your site that are somehow related to the subject matter is always a good idea.
A dozen or so pictures of the “Green Bananas" that visitors can send to their fellow fans would go down a treat and drive more traffic your way.
8. I fell for the lure of a freebie
Sad, but true - it's amazing how a freebie can draw a crowd. It doesn't have to be something super-duper out of this world fantabadistic, either.
If you're knowledgeable on a particular subject you could write an e-book to give away. E-books have the added advantage of being advertisements for your site so whoever gets the freebie isn't going to forget where it came from.
As long as you have a service visitors would normally need to pay for, free membership is another good give-away.
9. I entered a competition
Everybody likes to be a winner so why not give you visitors the chance to be one?
If your site is aimed at the local community you could contact local businesses and ask for them to sponsor a prize. If your target visitors are the Internet community you could do the same thing but contact net shops.
If you can't get a sponsor you could offer an Amazon voucher or similar as the prize. In all probability what the voucher costs you will be a very cheap form of advertising when seen in relation to the increased visitor numbers thanks to the competition.
10. Because I had it in my bookmarks
If your site's regularly updated with fresh, interesting content and/or new products, has a lively discussion forum or gives visitors something else they want, they'll keep coming back for more.
Try running the occasional survey to find out what your visitors want. That way you'll know what you need to improve, what to add more of, what you can forget and concentrate of fine tuning your site to knock spots off the competition.
Very few websites are overnight successes, and those that are have huge corporations behind them ploughing vast amounts of money into advertising.
Average Joe, however, will need to use every trick available to make sure his site's found so please don't ever let anybody tell you it's just a matter of designing a site, putting it on the web and then sitting back waiting for things to happen. It really isn't that easy. BUT don't be put off, either. Driving traffic can be fun and fulfilling and watching your site grow and thrive makes it all worth it.
About the Author
Sharon Jacobsen is a freelance writer living in South Cheshire, England. She's been designing and running websites since 1994 when she made her very first site, all about dogs. The site was very basic compared to what we see these days but then the web was a very different place back then. To contact Sharon or to learn more about her work, please visit http://www.sharon-jacobsen.co.uk